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January 15, 2013 3:13 PM Under the Surface of the “Status Quo Election”

By Ed Kilgore

National Journal’s Ron Brownstein and Scott Bland have an extensive analysis of the racial and ethnic polarization of the two party caucuses in the U.S. House. But there’s this tidbit that shows the dynamics going on under the surface in what most observers considered a “status quo election:”

In districts where the white share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, Republicans in November captured nine Democratic-held seats and lost seven of their own, for a net gain of two. In seats where the minority share of the voting-age population exceeds the national average, Democrats gained 11 and lost just one, for a net gain of 10….
Among the Democratic losers in the heavily white districts were several of the last remaining Blue Dogs—moderate Democrats who represented predominantly white, often rural, seats. These included Democrats Mark Critz of Pennsylvania, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, and Leonard Boswell of Iowa, all of whom lost reelection bids; and Oklahoma’s Dan Boren, North Carolina’s Heath Shuler, and Arkansas’s Mike Ross, whose seats flipped to the GOP after they retired.
The Republican losers in the diverse districts prominently included three California incumbents defeated in redrawn seats with substantial Hispanic populations: Mary Bono Mack, Dan Lungren, and Brian Bilbray. Another loser was Rep. Francisco Canseco of Texas, who was ousted by Democrat Pete Gallego in a majority Hispanic district. At the Republican National Convention last summer, NRCC Executive Director Guy Harrison heaped scorn on the suggestion that Canseco could lose.

This continued racial/ethnic polarization should in theory provide a marginal boost to House Republicans in 2014, when a midterm electorate disproportionately including older white voters typically shows up, while helping Democrats in 2016 and (of course) in the longer run.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Hattie McDaniel on January 15, 2013 3:43 PM:

    I for one do not think it a good thing for our political parties to be race-based.

  • martin on January 15, 2013 4:19 PM:

    Blue Dogs—moderate Democrats who represented predominantly white, often rural, seats.

    Moderate my ass. They were Republicans running as Democrats and they weren't even Moderate Republicans. They got just what they deserved and I'm glad to see them go.

  • Anonymous on January 15, 2013 4:35 PM:

    While the theory might be sound, it is the duty of the Democratic party to do all in it's power to prove your theory wrong. My concern is Democrats will, as usual, take little significant action between now and 2014 thereby turning a theory into a self-fullfilling prophecy.

  • meady on January 15, 2013 4:40 PM:

    The Republican losers in the diverse districts prominently included three California incumbents defeated in redrawn seats with substantial Hispanic populations: Mary Bono Mack, Dan Lungren, and Brian Bilbray.

    I live in (Lungrens) redrawn district now represented by Dr Ami Bera. I can tell you that this district is significantly more diverse but I honestly don't think that is why he lost. I will admit that though this district has fewer Republican voters in 2012, I think he would have lost anyway. His parochial "Dan knows best" approach had worn thin and when ultimately his actions reveal him to be a party hack. On a local NPR story, he was actually bragging about bringing styrofoam cups back to the Congress cafeteria as one of his achievements...I kid, you not. I gets the impression that Mary Bono Mack instilled similar views in her constituents.

  • c u n d gulag on January 15, 2013 4:48 PM:

    Anonymous,
    After last years November election, Obama and the Democrats kept a lot of their GOTV folks in the areas they'd chosen, or, been planted in.

    So, there's some hope that they'll be taking 2014 a lot more seriously than they did 2010.

    No guarantee's - but at least some hope!

    I've got to admit that, when I was younger, I skipped some "Off-year" elections.
    We had Hamilton Fish Sr. and Jr. for so long as our Congressperson, that there was virtually no point in going - except, of course to vote for the local vermin: Republicans in a fairly Republican county/disrict where only a dead girl or a live boy caught in bed with the poilitician, would have prevented him from being reelected.

    I think that, after the Democrats won in 2006, and then, lost in the reverse election of 2010, Democratic voters might be getting the hint that showing up every 2 years, is almost as importantas showing up every 4 years.

  • JR on January 15, 2013 5:06 PM:

    The blue flame may be simmering in Texas. My nephew - a UTSA sophomore - worked on Gallego's campaign. He and his Young Democrat colleagues are committed to, as he puts it, turning Texas blue. Though it may sound far-fetched, if the Democrats can engage up Hispanic voters, stranger things have certainly happened. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKi2yi_zaFQ

    One other thing I learned from my nephew's campaign experience - never, ever underestimate the 42nd President of the United States. Though it got no national coverage, William Jefferson Clinton was working hard for Congressional candidates. Late in the Gallego's campaign, when the GOP thought Canseco had it in the bag, Clinton spoke at a rally at a Southside San Antonio high school. If HRC does decide to run in 2014, I'll bet her husband will be hot on the trail next year, working hard to turn Congress as blue as possible for her.

  • Ron Byers on January 15, 2013 5:21 PM:

    CUND,

    I am Anonymous. I am glad to hear that Obama and the Democrats kept a lot of their GOTV people in place. That is the best news I have had all day. Now we need to figure out how to take the next step and poach some Republican seats.

  • Ron Byers on January 15, 2013 5:23 PM:

    CUND,

    I am Anonymous. I am glad to hear that Obama and the Democrats kept a lot of their GOTV people in place. That is the best news I have had all day. Now we need to figure out how to take the next step and poach some Republican seats.

  • AMS on January 16, 2013 8:58 AM:

    It's obvious why the GOP flops with non-white voters: the party's policies and rhetoric are so clearly hostile to them and their interests. What's not clear is why the Democrats have so little appeal to white voters. Their policies consistently poll well with all Americans, and they would manifestly be better for the average citizen than Republican policies. The Democrats' poor showing among white voters is as unhealthy, and less explicable, than the GOP's meager support from non-whites.